In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Single-Case Experimental Designs

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Primary Textbooks
  • Textbooks in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Journals
  • History
  • Types of Single-Case Experimental Designs
  • Model Building and Randomization in Single-Case Experimental Designs
  • Visual Analysis of Single-Case Experimental Designs
  • Effect Size Estimates in Single-Case Experimental Designs
  • Reporting Single-Case Design Intervention Research

Psychology Single-Case Experimental Designs
S. Andrew Garbacz, Thomas R. Kratochwill
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0265


Single-case experimental designs are a family of experimental designs that are characterized by researcher manipulation of an independent variable and repeated measurement of a dependent variable before (i.e., baseline) and after (i.e., intervention phase) introducing the independent variable. In single-case experimental designs a case is the unit of intervention and analysis (e.g., a child, a school). Because measurement within each case is conducted before and after manipulation of the independent variable, the case typically serves as its own control. Experimental variants of single-case designs provide a basis for determining a causal relation by replication of the intervention through (a) introducing and withdrawing the independent variable, (b) manipulating the independent variable across different phases, and (c) introducing the independent variable in a staggered fashion across different points in time. Due to their economy of resources, single-case designs may be useful during development activities and allow for rapid replication across studies.

General Overviews and Primary Textbooks

Several sources provide overviews of single-case experimental designs. Barlow, et al. 2009 includes an overview for the development of single-case experimental designs, describes key considerations for designing and conducting single-case experimental design research, and reviews procedural elements, assessment strategies, and replication considerations. Kazdin 2011 provides detailed coverage of single-case experimental design variants as well as approaches for evaluating data in single-case experimental designs. Kratochwill and Levin 2014 describes key methodological features that underlie single-case experimental designs, including philosophical and statistical foundations and data evaluation. Ledford and Gast 2018 covers research conceptualization and writing, design variants within single-case experimental design, definitions of variables and associated measurement, and approaches to organize and evaluate data. Riley-Tillman and Burns 2009 provides a practical orientation to single-case experimental designs to facilitate uptake and use in applied settings.

  • Barlow, D. H., M. K. Nock, and M. Hersen, eds. 2009. Single case experimental designs: Strategies for studying behavior change. 3d ed. New York: Pearson.

    A comprehensive reference about the process of designing and conducting single-case experimental design studies. Chapters are integrative but can stand alone.

  • Kazdin, A. E. 2011. Single-case research designs: Methods for clinical and applied settings. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A complete overview and description of single-case experimental design variants as well as information about data evaluation.

  • Kratochwill, T. R., and J. R. Levin, eds. 2014. Single-case intervention research: Methodological and statistical advances. New York: Routledge.

    The authors describe in depth the methodological and analytic considerations necessary for designing and conducting research that uses a single-case experimental design. In addition, the text includes chapters from leaders in psychology and education who provide critical perspectives about the use of single-case experimental designs.

  • Ledford, J. R., and D. L. Gast, eds. 2018. Single case research methodology: Applications in special education and behavioral sciences. New York: Routledge.

    Covers the research process from writing literature reviews, to designing, conducting, and evaluating single-case experimental design studies.

  • Riley-Tillman, T. C., and M. K. Burns. 2009. Evaluating education interventions: Single-case design for measuring response to intervention. New York: Guilford Press.

    Focuses on accelerating uptake and use of single-case experimental designs in applied settings. This book provides a practical, “nuts and bolts” orientation to conducting single-case experimental design research.

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